Another gobbler buys the Northern Scratchbox
I got my first gobbler this year at 5:55 AM on opening day. I guessed right regarding where they’d be, and when they started gobbling a hen answered. So, I did what the hen did, and two flew down to about 22 yards. They made it easy.
I didn't guess right today. In fact, I’ve missed only one day since May 2, and haven’t guessed right any day. Yesterday one gobbled across the field and one off the bottom of the field, but I couldn’t approach one and it was hard to approach the other. So I figured today they’d be back where I wanted them and I’d score.
At 5:45 one gobbled, but just like yesterday he was across the field. Then a hen flew down about 60 yards from me and crossed the field toward him. Another gobbled down off the bottom of the field. I decided my best option was to sit and wait.
At 7:15, an hour and a half after first gobble, I heard one gobble in the field behind me and to my right. I looked over my shoulder and there were two, one all fanned out. I watched him enter the woods and the other headed for the near corner. I scooted around to the other side of the tree. They gobbled and I responded. They’d call back to me but didn’t seem like they wanted to come. So, after about 15 minutes I gave them some aggressive fighting purrs on my Northern Scratchbox. That has worked before on stubborn gobblers, and it got these old boys excited. After 5 or more minutes of silence, they gobbled down below me, much closer. So I hit it and really got them stirred up. Then they went silent. They were coming.
I saw one through the leafed-out underbrush and adjusted my gun. The other followed—they were heading for the corner of the field. A multi-trunk beech and a big patch of multi-flora rose blocked my view, but I hoped they’d enter the field and come along the field edge, past the multi-flora rose, to an opening. If they did, it would be a chip shot.
The didn't. They turned back into the woods. One entered an opening I figured to be about 35 yards away. That's the maximum range I assign myself to give me a margin for error. I couldn’t get on him quickly enough, and he went behind a tree. The second bird entered the same opening. I shot and he went down.
Later I paced off the distance. Good thing I had that margin for error because I badly misjudged the range, by 20%. It was actually 42 yards, not 35. Fortunately my gun is easily capable of that.
He weighed 20 pounds, had a 9-inch beard and sharp, pink spurs over an inch long. A 3-year old.
Gobblers buy it. Maybe you should, too!
Yesterday, as I often do during spring gobbler season, I went to the woods to educate some turkeys I know by putting on a little turkey calling seminar. I use a turkey call of my own design and creation, the Northern Scratchbox, and it fooled them again at first light. Every time a gobbler would sound off hens responded with tree calls. So I copied them. A gobbler would yodel and several hens, including me, would reply all at the same time.
... some gobblers have apparently been assigned surveillance duty. I was about 150 yards from turning in to the place where I was speaking (in Saxonburg, PA), and three mature gobblers crossed the road in front of me, heading right toward it. The first flew across the road, then these two gobblers followed at a fast walk. Notice the size of the breast on the first one!
I rolled down the window, grabbed my homemade turkey call, and gave a yelp. Immediately they all gobbled. Grabbed my camera in time to shoot these two after the first ducked into the brush.
With gobblers attending our seminars now, it will get even tougher to call them in!
I checked a couple of my trail cameras today. One had dead batteries. The other had this buck taken on October 27. He's still in velvet. It's hard to tell how many points he has. Most of them are some form of brow tines. His right antler is smooth past that.
I probably won't be hunting here, and this is the only time I've seen him. 8, 9, 10, 11 points? Your guess is as good as mine.
According to the NWTF info found here, the gobbler I killed on Friday, May 17 was probably 4 years old.
I was hunting with a NWTF group in Washington County when I took Gobbler #2 for the year. I had three days, and got him at 9:30 on day 3. We hunted in the mornings and had an "energy" tour in the afternoons. We went to a Marcellus drilling rig, a coal mine subsidence site, and a pipeline right-of-way to learn about how the energy companies work with the PGC and the NWTF to make sure energy production has a positive outcome for wildlife.
Up until Day 3 of the hunt the group got only one bird, killed by a guy from Consol Energy. On the third and last day I hunted with a local guide named Mike. We got into the spot at 5:30 and the gobbler sounded off at the end of the field. He flew down and minded his hens (2 of them) while another gobbler watched. He only occasionally responded to our calls, but shock gobbled every time Mike blew on the crow call. They came toward us around 8:00, but stopped at about 55-60 yards and turned back the way they came.
Mike really knew what he was doing. While they were gone, he staked a jake fan right in front of me at the edge of the field. Later they came back to the 60 yard mark, and saw the jake fan. The gobblers wouldn't take their eyes off it, but the hens just kept feeding. After the hens walked back the way they came, the gobblers hung around, drifting to about 25 yards, giving that jake fan the stink-eye. Mike said not to shoot the one that wasn't strutting; he could see the spurs weren't very impressive. So I focused on the strutter. He went to my right, and when a bunch of grass screened my movement, I s-l-o-w-l-y brought my gun to the right and got on his head. When I filled his head with #5 shot he went right down and the other gobbler ran off.
He was a thing of beauty coming in at full strut in the sunlight. If it hadn't been for that jake fan, I doubt he would have come close enough. He would have followed those hens back across the field.
It took 4 hours, but it was worth it. He had a 10" beard and thick, sharp spurs a strong 1¼" long. They didn't curve much, probably because they were so thick. No one had a scale, but everyone thought he was well over 20 pounds. You can see in the photo that one toe had been broken and it curled outward.
Mike texted me after I got home that night and said by early evening the other gobbler was back in the field with the hens.
Need to call one in for my nephew now.
It all came together this morning, though I didn't think it would. I've been hunting one of my hotspots, but the turkeys have been inconsistently there and someone shot one on Wednesday. Here's today's hunt:
At 6:01 a turkey gobbled about 125 yards to my north, and I responded with a soft call. He answered back, but sounded like he was on the ground and in a field at my back. On Tuesday I had called four down along the edge of the field, but had no shot, so I turned to make sure I could cover that this morning. I didn't move much, but when I did, a big gobbler flushed from a tree about 35 yards away -- he had never opened his mouth.
There were 2 gobblers, but instead of coming right to me, they went into another field across the ravine. I could see them fanning out and gobbling, about 150 yards away. They would answer, but seemed to want to stay in the field. So, I got aggressive. I began yelping, cutting, purring, and clucking loudly on the little custom scratchbox I make. I went on for a full minute, and really got them fired up. They came to the edge of the woods, about 100 yards away, and they stopped there. So, I fired up my call again, and here they come. I stopped calling and watched. When they got into the ravine and I couldn't see them, I started what I figured would be my last series of calls. They were across the ravine in a heartbeat and at 35 yards one of them took a load of #5 shot. He went down hard enough that I didn't need to hurry over there. He dropped right under the tree the silent one had been roosted in. Now, his buddy flew off in the same direction.
I'm expecting both birds that flew to be there tomorrow. I'll take my buddy's wife there and see what we can do, but I'll have to leave at 6:30 to head to Franklin for the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writer's Conference.
#1 down (6:48 AM, 19 pounds, 9-inch beard. 1 broken spur and the other was a sharp 1" long). Plenty of time now for #2.
It has been a great Thanksgiving weekend, with over 300 pounds of whitetail hung in my garage. Here's my New York buck taken Thanksgiving morning at 7:35. He was following 5 does back to a bedding area when I intercepted him. A 10-point (main frame 8 with split brow tines), a 19" inside spread. The most impressive thing, he weighed 170 pounds field dressed. He would have been over 200 pounds live weight!
I saw four does coming, and scoped them for antlers. I began to relax but then a fifth came along behind -- also a doe. I thought, maybe there'd be another, and along he came. I didn't waste time looking at the antlers because he was heading for the Pennsylvania line. I put the shot through the last opening before he stepped into PA, and he went right down.
This is a very big deer for these parts, especially the body size. His neck was the thickest I've ever seen on a buck around here.
I shot this buck in Pennsylvania on opening day, 7:35 AM. Just as I arrived at the spot I wanted to watch, a doe got up from her bed about 30 yards away. She must have heard me, but didn't see or smell me. As she stood there looking around, she finally saw me and bolted. I stood there for a minute or two, and a buck walked into view about 80 yards away; then another bigger one. My bullet took off the top of his heart, and he ran about 100 yards.
He's another 10-point, this one with antlers between 115 and 120 inches. He weighed 140 pounds field dressed.
Where I live, a deer hunter can't have a much better weekend than this -- over 300 pounds of venison, and over 240 inches of antler in the space of four days.
I traveled to New Brunswick to speak at an event called "The Ultimate Hunt," sponsored by three churches in Burtts Corner. Before returning home, Jody Hanson (organizer of the event), his father, and I went out looking for moose. We saw two cows. When we saw the first, it was too dark to get a good photo.
On the left is a cow moose we saw at about 8:00 AM; it was over 100 yards away. We also saw some "partridge." One was a spruce grouse and four were ruffed grouse. We brought four of them back to the camp for lunch.
I went to the property where I opened the season two weeks ago. That morning at 5:25 a gobbler was sounding off right where I wanted him to be, but I couldn't get positioned properly. Three hens and a jake entered the field right below his roost tree. I was hoping he'd join them and meander my way, but at 6:05 he flew down the opposite direction, away from his hens! Then at 6:20 -- BOOM! I went over there and the guy said he missed.
I returned Monday and Tuesday, but didn't hear anything and figured the turkey had been hit and went off somewhere to die. Today I decided to check again. I was in the woods at 5:00 AM and at 5:40 he gobbled. Whether it's the same bird or not, I don't know. I gave a quiet yelp or two on my scratchbox, and he gobbled right back. Then I heard a couple of hens. One flew down about 40 yards to my left. She walked by me at about 20 yards and into the field. Then I heard another fly down. When she got to about 30 yards I gave her a few notes on the diaphragm so she wouldn't hurry into the field too quickly and cause the gobbler to enter the field before coming into range.
Next, here this guy comes. He fanned out once, then folded and walked behind a tree. I got the gun up and shot him at 28 steps.
This is actually the first gobbler I've heard since opening day. Although between the POWA conference, and being sick, I haven't hunted every day -- but I'm glad I went today. Still plenty of time to tag #2.
The stats: 17½ pounds, 1" spurs, 9" beard, 5:55 AM (I think that's my earliest).
This spring's first gobbler, shot before 6:00 AM.
After hunting in WMU 1B last week without seeing a deer (no food in the place we hunted), we went to WMU 2F for the opening of antlerless deer hunting there. When we got out of the truck, my nephew and I saw four deer crossing the field we parked in. He might have been able to shoot one, and I definitely could have, but if I had put my scope up I would have had another hunter in the sight picture. Better just to watch.
They crossed the road, went through another field and into a big briar patch. I figured they were headed for some hemlocks, and we caught up to them there, but the heavy frost made the leaves potato-chippy so they heard us coming. Another missed opportunity.
We slowly moved along the bench to one of my favorite spots, and at 10:20 I saw Erik s-l-o-w-l-y reach for the old Sears .243 my sister loaned him. I didn't figure it would go this way. I thought I'd see the deer first, but he did. I thought I'd have to tell him "Slowly reach for your rifle," but he already knew.
Four deer, all does. They stopped about 40 yards away. I said, "Do you have a clear shot?" He whispered "No." I said "Wait for one; they'll stop before going down over the bank." He waited, then BANG, and one hit the ground.
I didn't figure I'd get my own shot because my main interest was in Erik getting his first deer, but when the other three deer froze I knew I'd have a chance. One ran angling toward us and I shot that one. I've shot lots of deer before, but this one was pretty rewarding because the only other time I was involved in a "double" was when his father (now deceased) and I shot two Alaska bull moose at the same time. What a rush!
Erik's deer fell down a steep bank, about 30 feet high and almost vertical -- much steeper than it looks in the pictures below. It's at least a 10° slope, maybe steeper. I brought it up the slope, we field dressed both deer using the Havalon knife, and dragged them out. It's great helping a kid get his feet wet in deer hunting.
My buddy called yesterday and said he saw a buck rub like he's never seen -- the trunk is scratched higher than he can reach. So, today we took a hike to the place. I took along my camera and a tape measure. The tape in the picture is extended 95 inches (one inch short of 8 feet!) and is hooked on the highest mark.
It definitely looks like a buck rub, and we could see some shavings on the ground. But is there any buck that can reach 8 feet high? If this were elk country, maybe. But not a whitetail -- even if he had his front feet off the ground.
So, I looked more closely. Telling by the slivers of bark that were showing, it's clear that the scratch marks were made in a downward motion -- not like tine marks. Although there weren't many parallel scratches -- like claws beside one another would do -- I think this was made by a bear.
Why would a bear scratch a tree like that? (I think it's a striped maple.) Maybe a buck rubbed it first, which caught the bear's attention and he worked it over some more. Or, he's just doing what bears do.
It's enough to make a guy go get a bear tag. I'll be hunting deer here and we know there are more bears here. (Click here to open photo larger
Click here to open center photo in a new window.
I hunted this morning and checked the two trail cameras I have in he area. I had an 8-point and a 10-point on one, plus a couple of coyotes in the area. Also I had five pictures of a bald eagle. He's holding his wing funny in all of them. The three above are the best, and the middle picture is the clearest. There is a nest about a quarter mile from this spot. You should be able to enlarge these photos by opening them by themselves in your browser.
I spent two days last week hunting in Ohio with Todd and Cody Frank at ClearCreek Outfitters of Ohio. What a great operation! Todd owns it and runs it with his family. Cody, his son, is one of his guides. His wife Kristen does the cooking and pretty much runs the lodge. They have very comfortable accommodations, serve great meals -- and they have some BIG whitetails.
In just two days (starting with a couple of hours on Tuesday evening) I saw 17 deer during daylight, and 7 of them were bucks. I also saw the two biggest bucks I've ever seen while hunting -- though I couldn't get a shot at either of them.
On Tuesday evening a gentleman named Roy (I think he was from West Virginia) shot this 12-point. Todd put a tape on the antlers and the 5X4 rack (with strong mass and three sticker points) had a rough green-gross score in the high 140s. On the day I left they got three more great bucks, an 8, a 10, and an 11. My buddy Dick was there on opening day in early October, and shot a nice 9-point, too. I believe there's a great buck down there for me, and I can't wait to return.
If you want to keep up with the goings-on at Clearcreek, watch their Facebook page
At 4:00 in the afternoon on Friday, October 21, one of the trail cameras behind my house caught this sequence. Two bucks, not more than 2½ years old, stepped in front of the camera and began fighting. In the first picture, you see them posturing stiff-legged with their ears laid back. The next has their antlers in contact. The third photo shows them really digging in. And in the fourth the bigger one (an 8-point) steps forward and the other (a 6-point) promptly leaves. In the fifth picture and several following, he stands there, sniffs around where the other buck had been, and finally lays down. In the sixth photo he appears to be grooming himself, and shortly after that he gets up and walks away. Because much of the hair on the buck seems disheveled, I suspect these two bucks had been in a skirmish for longer than they were in front of the camera.
This is a warm-up for the future. When the rut comes he'll probably get to participate in breeding, and if he lives until next year, he'll probably engage in a few more bouts.
Here's a video of a nice buck at a licking branch doctored with Smokey's Pre-Orbital Gland Lure. I placed the lure on this branch on September 7, and he's at the branch on September 14, a whole week later. There is nothing but the lure here -- no urine, and no scrape under the licking branch. Then, a doe shows up on September 18 -- 11 days after the lure was placed on this licking branch. This is the best evidence I've seen that you don't have to refresh your pre-orbital gland lure any more frequently than once a week.
We're a week into September and some bucks have hard horns while others are still wearing velvet. Here's a screen capture of a video that shows a buck (maybe a small 8-point) with some velvet hanging from his left antler.
He was so close to the camera that I didn't get a good shot, but in the video you can see he's definitely in the middle of shedding, and he has a bunch of short points on his antlers.
Today, some bucks have shed and others haven't. In another day or two, all bucks will have hard horns. When I checked one camera today at 2:40, a coyote had walked by about 2 hours earlier (below). The camera didn't capture the whole dog, but from his shoulders back, he looks healthy.
I checked a few of my scouting cameras yesterday afternoon and discovered another doe at a licking branch. Why aren't the bucks using them? I don't know, but at least the does are showing me that Smokey's pre-orbital gland lure is working. At the same camera, a 10-point came by. He's not real big, maybe just a two year old, but around here he'd be a shooter. Then at another camera I got a photo of a nice 10-point -- maybe a 125"-130" buck. He's probably three years old, and the best buck I have on camera so far. He's the one I'd like to figure out, but I suspect there's a bigger one around, too.
The two daytime photos above are adjacent to a cornfield. I have a couple of shots of a small bear heading for the corn, as well as some smaller bucks and some fawns. (You should be able to right-click on these photos to make them bigger)
My trail camera scouting has been slow this summer. I know the big bucks are there, but I haven't seen them yet. The only photos I've gotten are of small bucks, does (with fawns), and a coyote. The biggest buck is an 8-point, probably only 2½ years old. I'm using the Moultrie M-80 and the Bushnell Trophy Cam. Both cameras are getting some nice photos. Here are a few samples (You should be able to right click on them to enlarge):
Notice that the doe is using the licking branch. Until this photo I knew does would use licking branches, but I hadn't seen it. Also, the little fawn was taken on August 10, just before 8:00 PM, and the photo of the coyote was taken in the same place just 5 hours later on August 11 at 1:00 AM. This is in an area with a ton of deer sign. I've had two cameras there but I added a third. More photos to come.
Another gobbler falls to the Northern Scratchbox! My buddy went out last evening and worked this gobbler. He almost got him, but the bird turned and went to roost. We showed up this morning at about 5:00, and set up on opposite sides of a strip of woods. At 5:37, the bird gobbled. We had misjudged where he'd be. He was about 60 yards away, behind me and off my left shoulder, but his roost tree was only about 10 yards from Dick. At about 5:45, I scratched out a faint tree call on my Northern Scratchbox. That was enough to get his attention, and when he flew down he came looking.
He flew down behind me. I probably should have stood up, turned around, and waited for him, but I elected not to move. He came to me along the edge of the field to my right. I had to turn without spooking him, and the shot to my extreme right was difficult. I shot him at 5:55, about 35 yards away. It didn't kill him, but waited for Dick and we succeeded in chasing him down.
This was the companion gobbler to the one I shot last Saturday. Stats: 19 pounds, a 10" beard, and 3/4" spurs (although one was shorter because it was broken). A nice 2-year old. He was the dominant bird there, with the feathers worn off his breastbone and a big callous from breeding. We're finished there now, but Dick has three more days to score in Pennsylvania. He shot two in New York on the first two days of the season there, but has had no luck in Pennsylvania.
It has been a tough turkey season. I've hunted every day except two, and called in six gobblers during the first two days, but only called in hens until today when I scored on a nice 2-year old bird. He had a 9¾" long beard and ⅞" spurs. I called him in with my own Northern Scratchbox turkey call.
On my way to the spot where I was going to listen for the gobblers to wake up, I flushed a bird on the edge of a field at about 5:05 AM. I could see it silhouetted against the dark sky, and was looking for a beard dangling against its chest. I was pretty sure it was a hen.
At 5:12, a gobbler sounded off along the edge of the field about 100 yards or more from where I was. So, I nestled myself against a multi-trunk cherry tree about 15 feet inside the woods, and when he flew down at 5:40 I began calling. The first bird that gobbled wasn't the gobbler that came in, however. This gobbler was a little closer. I couldn't see him when he flew down, but before long he was in sight and in full strut coming my way.
Twice while I was calling him in hens flew down and landed right in front of him, but he totally ignored them and kept coming to the Northern Scratchbox. At 6:11 AM I shot him at 34 yards.
They're fun to watch, and when everything is going right it's as though you can read their minds."I'll make myself real big so she can see me. Where is she? I'll puff up again. OK -- now for my sexiest, irresistible gobble. Maybe if I walk over here. How about here? I'll spin around and show her my tail -- yeah, that'll impress her. Where is she? OK, she's playing hard to get. I'll walk a little closer." Yes, as males tend to do, he wasn't thinking clearly, and his next thought was his last thought. "If I stretch my neck up maybe I'll see her." That's when the lights went out.
This gobbler was one of three I have been working since Wednesday. The foggy morning backdrop makes a great photo!
Earlier this week my friend Audrey Zimmerman called in a similar gobbler, the first mature bird she ever called in by herself -- and she did it with the Northern Scratchbox. This was her second New York bird of the season, and she shot both on consecutive days.
There's her Northern Scratchbox lying on the gobbler's shoulders.
I went out today for an antler hunting excursion and found a pretty good antler. The first picture shows the antler as I found it. I took the second on the kitchen counter where I placed it with a smaller antler that I found a couple of years ago and a business card for relative size. For what it's worth, I measured it, and it taped at 50 inches. (Length – 18-7; G1 – 4-4; G2 – 6-1; G3 – 3-4; NT – 1-7; H1 – 4-5; H2 – 3-6; H3 – 3-7; H4 – 2-7; Total – 50-0) With an 18" spread, it would be 118". It's the biggest I've ever found, and there aren't many around here that are bigger. I'm guessing it's a 3½ year old buck, and this year he'll be 4½. One big problem -- I also found 7 tree stands -- that those are just the ones that were left there all winter! The wooded area where I found this is adjacent to a cornfield that had standing corn all winter, and the farmer finished picking it today. The wooded area is a strip that is only about 10 acres. That's a lot of tree stands for this small a property -- which is why bucks don't grow up. I have 2 or 3 more spots that I want to check for antlers.
I also visited the local bald eagle's nest. You can see it from the road about 600 yards away, but today I was right under it. Mama was sitting on the nest. Last year she hatched two. If you enlarge the picture or open it by itself, you can see the white head and yellow beak of the eagle.
Today a buddy and I took a short excursion to hunt for antlers. It was probably a little early because there was still plenty of snow on the ground. About all we could do was walk some trails and inspect the area around some deer beds.
On the way home we drove by a spot where my brother hit a deer a few weeks ago, and about 10 deer were standing there waiting to cross the road. Looks like a nice spot, except for the signs that were posted along the road. They don't allow hunting, but I wonder if they'll allow shed antler hunting.
This morning I went flying in an ultralight plane with my friend Doug Angove. The picture at left is a cornfield about a mile from my house. You can see that a bear has been feeding on the corn. He's made a mess of two big spots, and several smaller spots.
In the picture at right is the plane after we landed. Doug is beginning to pack the chute away before we push the "Dream Machine" into the hangar.
I got over 60 photos, but the air was hazy and I had too big a lens, so I'm disappointed in some of the photos. Still, it was a very fun time. I wish I could check things out on the ground as fast as I can from the air.
If you want a bear, go to P.R. Guides in New Brunswick. Pierre and Ron really know what they're doing. They have almost 50 bait sites and all of them have several bears coming to them. They hunt the Bathurst region and their camp has great accommodations.
The hunt began on Monday and the forecast was for severe thunderstorms on Tuesday and Wednesday, so everyone was motivated to shoot on Monday. Late on Wednesday afternoon, when the storm died down, we refreshed some of the bait sites and discovered fallen trees as large as a foot in diameter. (See photo at right.) I took my bear with my brother's .30-30 (a Marlin 336 clone), firing 170-grain Federal Fusion bullets, scoped with an Alpen Apex 3-9 X 42mm. By the way, it's hard to tell from this photo, but this is a chocolate phase black bear. It made the most beautiful rug I've ever seen.
Pierre and Ron at P.R. Guides also offer a great moose hunt.
After the long winter I got out for a little fishing today. Pete Alex, a fishing guide on Lake Erie, took me to his honey hole for Steelhead. This Lake Erie tributary is full of fish, and we got our share -- landing at least 25, maybe 30 good fish.
As we approached the stream, Pete said “Look down there. That’s why I call this ‘Little Alaska'.” I followed his finger and asked, “What am I looking for? A moose?” Then I saw the fish, so many of them I’d be able to walk across the stream on their backs if they’d hold still. “Wow!”
Pete also runs a charter on
To win as much as he does in the many tournaments he fishes in, he needs to know what he’s doing. And he knows every trick. If he’s not catching fish, they can’t be caught.
His charter is called Vision Quest Sport Fishing, and you can find him online at www.DreamSteelie.com. For the best fishing on
I'm not sure, but on April Fool’s Day I think I became a fool for fishing. One thing is sure -- I learned that I ought to do more of it.
After deer season I placed a trail camera in front of a ribcage to see what critters it might attract. I was mostly interested in seeing if I could get some photos of the bobcat again. Ii got many pictures of crows, bluejays, a female cardinal and a couple of deer, and then a photo of a redtail hawk. This big raptor came only one time, but stayed for an hour. The camera was set to take shots in bursts of three, and to fire once every minute. He appeared to take a bite, then sit up and watch for danger.
The second photo was a coyote. I got 9 photos of him over the course of three or four days, all during the night.
Next was a big raccoon. He spent a lot of time there. Notice the photo at the left. The flash caught the eyes of something in the brush looking at the raccoon, which has his back to whatever the animal is.The eyes appear to be set wide apart, so it can't be a small animal. Maybe it's the coyote.
Then came a skunk, followed a couple of days later by the bobcat. The bobcat didn't seem to pay any attention to the deer bones. Finally, on January 29, a red fox showed up.The meat is pretty much gone from the bones now.
As I was closing out the PA rifle season on Saturday, sitting in a ground blind I had in a patch of thornbrush, I saw something I couldn't identify at about 4:30. It wasn't a deer, and at first I wondered if it might be a coyote. I couldn't quite make it out through my binoculars, but there was also a rabbit nearby and it looked like it was setting up for an attack. I saw a sudden move and the rabbit run away to the left. Then this animal walked away, more cat-like than coyote-like.
I was about 25 yards from a trail camera I hadn't checked since opening day. So, at quitting time I pulled the memory card in the camera (which was about 50 yards away from the animal). Here's what I found. I've seen bobcat tracks in the area, and on December 1 it captured the image of a bobcat. (RIGHT CLICK to enlarge.)
I saw three deer in New York this year, eight in Warren County (all on Wednesday, 12/2), and five in Greene County (12/7-8), a total of 16 deer. I killed a buck in New York and two does (Warren and Greene Counties.)
Before sitting in the ground blind for the last two hours, I walked a long way and saw nothing more than a few tracks.
My friend Frank Semple and I (Frank attends the church that I serve) put in for antlerless tags down in Pennsylvania WMU 2A, and hunted there Monday and Tuesday. On Monday I saw 3 deer, all bucks. I couldn't put enough points on any of them. The third one was actually the first one I saw. He was poking around in the brush about 100 yards away as I sat in a shanty. About the time I lost sight of him, two other bucks popped out on the right-of-way I was on. One was smallish, and the other larger. I'm pretty sure both had G2 and G3 tines, but I couldn't see well enough between their ears to know if they had brow tines (it was a 4-point AR area), and they didn't stick around long. About 20 minutes I picked up a view of the first buck, slowly making his way toward me. He was about 13 inches wide, with a fork on the right and a smooth antler on the left -- a big 3-point. The other two were definitely bigger, and I'd bet one of them was legal, but I couldn't be sure enough to shoot.
On Tuesday, 12/8, I shot a doe on our third drive of the morning. John and Bob (Frank's brothers), were doing the pushing for Frank and me. Two deer came through, and turned to head toward the road. I bleated with my voice to stop them. The other was darker and bigger, very likely also a doe, but I didn't get a good enough look at its head to be sure it was bald. Rather than take the chance of shooting a small buck, I pulled the trigger on this one -- a 50-60 yard shot down in the goldenrod.
I still have a buck tag for Pennsylvania and an antlerless tag for New York's unit 9J, but with the PA season ending Saturday and the NY season ending Sunday, I probably won't get the chance to fill them. The weather has taken a turn for the worse. With that, and other obligations I have, it looks like I may not get out until Saturday.
Mark McInturff shot two dandy bucks in Ohio in the past two years, both from the same stand on the same day, November 14. Deer & Deer Hunting has made his 2009 buck the "Deer of the Day" for today, December 7. Check out the forums at D&DH.
Both bucks have 10 good points. Last year's buck had a net B&C score of just over 140 B&C, enough for the Ohio Big Buck Club if my measurement holds up. This year's buck is definitely wider, and maybe had more mass, but perhaps less beam length. The smile says it all! Way to go, Mark! Where do you think you'll be next year on November 14?
I was "best man" in Mark's wedding many years ago, but it looks like Mark is the better man when it comes to big whitetails!
Today was day three of the PA season and I hadn't seen any deer in PA yet. I'd been hunting a patch of thornbrush for the past two days, but today I decided to get out of it. I walked about a mile down the valley to a spot where I have a treestand. I had it standing on a piece of 2x4 so it wouldn't sink into the ground, and someone had knocked it out so I put it back and tightened up the straps. There was a hunter about 120 yards away, so I walked over to him. It was Dustin, a young man I have known for years. As we talked, he spotted some deer on a very steep and high (maybe 200 feet) bank behind me. As they worked toward a less steep spot and descended the bank, I got ready for a shot. There were about 8 deer, all does. Since Dustin didn't have a doe tag, I would take the shot. I picked out a big one. When I got her home she weighed 115 pounds field dressed. The rifle on the ground at the right is Dustin's .30-30.
She had run about 40 yards, and ended up with her head in the creek. I had taken her high through both lungs, so she was a goner at that point. This picture shows her before I touched her. At least she didn't die thirsty!
The picture on the right shows the creek and the high bank the deer came down. The section they came down isn't shown in the photo. Dustin is taking the photo -- it was to his extreme right, higher and steeper than the section that is shown. Dustin had to leave for a funeral, but I was ropeless and he loaned me his drag rope.
One more thing. The creek flooded last summer, and at left is a photo of a Tonka truck that got washed down from somewhere upstream. The dead-on-its-feet deer ran by it with blood leaking out both sides, and sprayed blood on the toy.
New York shotgun season opened today. At 7:25 AM I took this 8-point as he chased a doe. Before it was fully light, I heard him grunt twice on the bench below me -- where the treestand I was planning on climbing was. I could also hear sticks breaking. I bleated back on the Woods Wise Super Hot Ma-Mah deer call, but no response. At about 7:20, I heard him grunt again, so I bleated again. A few minutes later a doe came rocketing up the hill, with this buck in hot pursuit, and then he turned toward me. I bleated again, this time with my voice, making it as sharp as I could since I wanted him to hear me above the noise they were making, and stop for a shot. It worked. She stopped -- he did too, about 50 yards directly below me. I liberated his heart from its aorta, and he ran about 60 yards and died. The Super Hot Ma-Mah works and Lightfield Lite shotgun shells give deep penetration and plenty of knockdown power. Thanks to my good friend Audrey Stone for handling my camera so well. And for being my "guide" on this hunt. I shot this buck near her archery stand. Audrey, by the way, is a world-class archer who shoots Bow-Tech bows.
Archery season is over, and I pulled my trail cameras today, brought in my climbing stand, and took down my ground blind. Here are a couple of pictures that were on the camera near the dry pond. On the left is a small bear, and on the right is the same 8-point that is in the October 20 post. At least one other archery hunter has been in the area (I got his picture several times, though never a view of his face). It appears he has had no better luck than I have had.
Want to see the difference between a fox and a coyote? He are two trail camera photos taken early in the morning and late in the evening on the same day, with a coyote and a red fox in almost the same position relative to the camera.
Here's a pretty good 7-point. He visited this rub two nights in a row. His neck is getting swollen and his shoulders are as big as his hind quarters. Probably a 3½ year old.
In the picture on the left (taken October 31 just before 1:00 AM, he appears to be rub-urinating (spraying urine on his tarsal glands and rubbing them together.
This spot has drawn several deer, as it did last year. The picture of the 2½ year old at the licking branch from September 24 is also in this spot, but the camera is taking the picture from the other direction.
I spent most of yesterday afternoon in the woods with a buddy. He's one of the best hunters I know, and we were looking over the area behind my house. The mast crop looks terrible. No acorns, no beech, no apples, and only a tiny number of grapes. No hickory nuts either. There is a corn field nearby, and only a little deer sign in it. My buddy saw all of this as an indication that most local deer have moved on to look for a place with more groceries. We had a very hard frost here in early June, and it took everything.
I've had a few trail cam pictures of small bucks, but nothing very impressive. The biggest ones are shown below. What's a shooter buck in this area is small for anyone serious about collecting bone.
However, the rut is starting, and the deer should be crazy in a few days.
In October 12 I finally got a photo of a shooter buck. I set the camera up to see if I could get a photo of him crossing the creek. In this picture he is on the near side of the creek. He has a scrape across the creek that he hits frequently. This buck is probably 3½ and has about 110-115" of antler. He's a pretty good buck for this area, but I'm still betting there is a bigger one around.
Last week on Sept. 17 I freshened my licking branches with Smokey's Preorbital Gland Lure, and about 12 hours later I got this picture of a 2½ year old 8-point buck. He's not yet mature as evidenced by the lack of muscle development in his shoulders, and the small upsweep in the abdominal area, but he has potential.
The third camera had some doe groups visit, but no bucks. I'm doctoring licking branches in front of the cameras with Smokey's Pre-Orbital lure, which should start to draw bucks. Maybe soon -- the cameras have been out for only a week.
Here's a photo sequence from the Slam'n Salm'n Derby (June 21) in Anchorage Alaska. At left is the winner of the 2009 Andy Sorensen Sportsmanship Award hoisting his trophy. Andy was my younger brother, and he passed away unexpectedly in March, 2008.) Andy influenced many fishermen while fishing at downtown Anchorage's Ship Creek, Next is Andy's wife congratulating the winner. Then, Andy's boys Eric and Jake with the winner, and with Jim Lavrakas, the man who had the idea for the trophy to honor the memory of Andy, one of the best fishermen in Anchorage. The trophy is on display in Anchorage. Congratulations to Jioji "George" Lino. May he be the next Slam'n Salm'n Derby winner!
I don't find many shed antlers, but I used one of the tips found in an excellent article posted on the Deer & Deer Hunting Site. The article is entitled Shed Hunting: Expert Tips on Where to Look. It was written by the guy who wrote the book on shed antler hunting.
THE BOOK: "Shed Hunting: A Guide to Finding White-Tailed Deer Antlers" is the first book dedicated entirely to shed hunting. The 160-page book is an in-depth guide that teaches you how to find naturally shed white-tailed deer antlers. The book is written by Joe Shead, a former managing editor of Deer & Deer Hunting magazine and a passionate shed hunter. Joe has found sheds from Alabama to Saskatchewan and draws on his knowledge of whitetails from both behind the desk and in the field to teach you how to find antlers.
The book discusses the fascinating processes of antler growth and shedding. You'll also learn where to look for antlers, which areas contain bucks during late winter and early spring and how to find places with high deer populations that are off-limits to deer hunting. The book also includes information on how to train a dog to find shed antlers, how to deal with competition from other shed hunters and what to do with your sheds, once you've found them.
If you've never found a shed antler but have always wanted to, this book will show you how. If you're a veteran antler seeker, Joe's tips and tricks will help you perfect your craft. Joe Shead's website is http://www.goshedhunting.com/.
I checked my trail cameras (Moultrie D40) this afternoon (6/19). I was going to pull them, but as soon as I saw last night's photos I decided to leave them for a few more days. A bear walked by one camera, and I got three images:
Note the second photo. Is that blurry black shadow in the lower left corner a second bear? Probably. It doesn't appear in either of the other photos.
These three shots were taken at 8:10, 8:12 and 8:14 last evening. Naturally, I left the camera there, and will try to get out and check it tomorrow afternoon. If he makes another evening appearance I'll set up in a blind I already have there conveniently (left over from the last day of spring gobbler season.)
I've been playing with a spotting scope from Alpen Optics for an article in Ohio Valley Outdoors, lining up a camera for an exercise in "digiscoping." It worked very well on this rabbit in my yard. I also got pictures of two bald eagle hatchlings in a nest near my home, a couple of turkeys about 300 yards away in the fog, and a few more critters.
Pennsylvania's spring gobbler season is over now, and I succeeded at filling one of my two tags. After hunting this old boy on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I got very close on Friday, May 8. He sounded off at 5:25 AM. In a half hour he bellowed more than 50 times. I resisted giving him more than three tree yelps so soft I could hardly hear them, from a homemade scratch box sent to my by a friend of my father-in-law in South Carolina. It proved deadly. He flew down within range, and gave me a 30 yard shot.
He weighed 20½ pounds, had a 9½" beard and 1" spurs. With that bulge in his cheek, he looked like he had mumps on the right side (shown), or maybe he had a pinch between his cheek and gum. (I didn't check.)
I went fishing in Lake Erie with some guys from Ohio Valley Outdoors magazine, and my friend Jim Brys went along. John Tucholski of J. T. Sport Fishing Charters (http://www.lake-erie-walleye-fishing.com/) knew where the fish were and we hauled in over 130 pounds of walleye. Jim caught a 29½" Ohio state citation fish. Our box o' fish more than tripled what other charters out of Port Clinton, Ohio took that day. I'm shown holding my biggest (26"), but I also caught a "Fish-Ohio" citation-size (24") sheepshead (also known as freshwater drum).